Why ‘Mental Health and Recovery Advocacy’ is Important for Christians. Part 2

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

“Recovery” is a bad word to a few staunch leaders in the Christian faith. So is “addiction.”  Apparently to some, we are not to recover, but repent. We are not addicts, but habitual sinners. As a Christian of the born-again variety with an Evangelical bent, and as a mental health and recovery advocate, I do not see the above terms as mutually exclusive.

Reality is, being conquered by a behavior we no longer control makes us ill.  Our spiritual, physical, and mental health need help. If one wants to insist ‘repentance’ is the better word choice, let him keep in mind that all sin has painful consequences. Turning from sinful behavior most certainly involves some measure of recovery, does it not?

I am not arguing for a victim mentality, excuses, or lifestyle of self-destruction.

The prophet Isaiah* wrote, “Stop doing wrong!” We must humbly stand before God. As is true with any behavior (whether in thought, word, or deed) that does not reflect God’s holy nature, change must begin with sorrow for grieving him, and a sincere decision to turn our lives and will over to him.

That is only the beginning, however.  Isaiah added, “Learn to do right.” Immediately upon choosing to stop doing wrong, of necessity we must completely depend on God for staying clean, sober, or abstinent.  This is the recovery process.

Popular, statistically successful, and might I add Biblical steps to recovery as promoted by 12-step anonymous groups, are rich with what we Christians call repentance, confession, and “sanctification” (the process of overcoming our tendency toward sin).

  • Step one:  Admit we are powerless over (addiction) –  that our lives have become unmanageable. “I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” – St Paul in Romans 7:21
  • Step two: Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – St Paul in Romans 7:24, 25
  • Step three: Make a decision to turn our our will and our lives over to the care of God. “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” – St Paul in Romans 6:16
  • Step four:  Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”  – John, disciple of Jesus in 1 John 1:9,10
  • Step five:  Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. “Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.” – King David in Psalm 32:5;   “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
  • Step six:  Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  – James, brother of Jesus in James 4:8-10
  • Step seven: Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.  Keep your servant from deliberate sins!  Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt  and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  – King David in Psalm 19:12-14
  • Step eight: Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.  The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.”  – King David’s song in Psalm 25: 8,9
  • Step nine: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible,  except when to do so would injure them or others.  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Jesus preaching in Matthew 5: 23, 24
  • Step ten:  Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.  So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.” – Peter, disciple of Jesus in 1 Peter 1:12-14
  • Step eleven: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  “… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” – Hebrews 12:2
  • Step twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to (addicts), and to take practice these principles in all our affairs.   “And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  – St Paul in Corinthians 5: 18-20

Recovery includes building healthy support systems, reconsidering one’s worldview, and growing up. A budding relationship with God adds new dimensions and disciplines we need time to implement.

If all we ever do is say “I’m sorry” and then “just say no,” we miss out on the deep, rich healing God wants to give to our deepest wounds. 

For a testimony on how recovery led one woman to Christ, click here.

Today’s Helpful Word

Mark 2: 15-17

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*Isaiah 1:16-17

pics from Kozzi.com

Why ‘Mental Health and Recovery Advocacy’ is Important for Christians. Part 1

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry


For one year now I have introduced myself as a Mental Health and Recovery Advocate. According to a few extreme responses, “advocate” means I must stand for every psychology-based feel-good whimsy, willing to sacrifice my Christian faith in the process.

The background and perceptions of these people are unclear. Let’s face it.  Old ideas and stigmas die-hard. I too am influenced by both informed and uninformed messengers of qualified truth. There have been serious inner struggles over whether I am doing the right thing and advocating for the whole truth.

Each time though, I land on one important point. People need hope, and judgment never meets that need.

Psychology is the study of human behavior. It is neither perfect or innately wrong. As one who thanks God for the therapists and psychiatrists whose knowledge of human behavior and brain science helped turn my life around,  I will be an advocate (not an anything-goes pusher), of professional mental health care. 

How could God possibly be against the study of human behavior when the Bible is in part exactly that? He provides the answers that I for one, needed the help of therapists to understand.

As a believer in Jesus’ divinity, I know him as the only birth-son of God. He is not merely one of many options, but is in fact, the way to God the Father*. The “universe,” and creation are not equal to the Almighty Creator. As it says in Romans 9:20,  “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'”

I will always credit God as the Highest Power for taking me to the right people at the right time. Because he is an artiste who knows us all intimately, he alone truly understands a human heart and the inner workings of each mind. He knew exactly what would heal my disease and deepen my experience with him. 

Mental health and recovery advocacy is not the same as embracing a victim mentality or denying one’s need for turning from sin.  I do not defend addiction, spiritual rebellion, or excuses for poor choices. Instead, my advocacy tears down pious and ignorant stigmas preventing people from finding lasting hope. 

For me, mental health and recovery advocacy is offering patience and support for the suffering no matter what caused their pain.  By teaching churches, families, and friends how to effectively love those who are broken-in-spirit, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed in the process, I multiply how many hurting people receive the non-judgmental care they deserve.  My wish is to increase the number of hands offered to despairing people who lay fallen on the floor.  

I am not going to kick a person who is already down. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Job 6:14  (Amplified)

To him who is about to faint and despair, kindness is due from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.

 

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*John 3:16; John 14:6

 

For Peace of Mind, Embrace Your Complete Past As-Is

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Hundreds of uncategorized blog posts.  Hundreds of old posts in need of editing. Hundreds.

Day after day for the last three and a half months I have worked at repairing five years of work. At the start in 2012, my writing skills were poor. Some of the ideas were incomplete and in a few cases, wrong.  By ditching the most questionable and fixing the rest, I am rewriting history. Within a few weeks the archives will seem as if I’ve been articulate from the beginning. 

That is how I want to be understood and remembered. Well-spoken, wise, helpful… also non-conformist, irreverent, challenging the status quo and false piety.  Ironically, I may be better known as the opposite of the above, at least by some people. 

One mother said, “I wish my teenagers could remember their early years when we shared so much laughter. They will not remember me from then – they will only recall these tougher years when I have to be strict and more disciplinary.”

Darn it. She’s right. The negatives of my family of origin are easily recalled. I’ve written and spoken about the open hostility, emotional neglect, and abuse. However, am I rewriting history by focusing only on the bad (albeit very bad) stories? Truth needs no repair.  Fuzzy and shrouded good memories are still memories.  

Some of my fondest remembrances are due to my dad, the same man I credit with near-total destruction of my childhood. It’s confusing, and yet reality.

He took me for long drives, allowing me to choose “turn right” or “turn left”.  Once convinced I had him thoroughly lost, his challenge was to get us home, which invariably he did. 

On these fun outings he would point out falling stars, roaming deer, full moons, and other points of nature. In those days, falling stars were rare, and deer were not often seen. He would say, “Remember – this is once in a lifetime.” 

He could not have known that one day deer would leisurely munch in my backyard, or that meteor showers would be forecast. You see, it is not the end story that determines a memory’s value. What made it special in the first place was quantity time with my dad.

So it is when pain pierces a nice memory.  Good does not become fake when simultaneously mixed with evil. Most of my life I separated the two, and obliterated positive experiences from my mind. If hurt, betrayal, or abuse was reality, then pleasantry, trust, and safety were not. 

I write this as a warning to anyone who thinks similarly. That black and white interpretation of life will remove peace of mind and prevent joy.  

I urge you to look at both realities. Yes, some memories are agonizing. Accepting that fact is hard yet healing. Also factual are those moments beauty, kindness, or reprieve flavored life. Try very hard to focus on those. Give your past a break by embracing history in its fulness.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32:22

And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 

As Seen on Psych Central – 6 Words That Led to a Suicide Attempt: “She’s Just a Crybaby. Stay Here.”

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry


Today’s blog is my article published on Psych Central this week.
     click title ⇓

6 Words that Led to a Suicide Attempt: “She’s Just a Crybaby. Stay Here”

Today’s Helpful Word

Revelation 21:4(NLT)

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Promise from God)

 

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com

Legal Doctor Prescribed Death – Will YOU Survive?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2013 Nancy Virden

In 2005, Terry Schivo was the center of an international debate over human dignity, quality of life, and the power of medicine. On permanent life support, and severely brain-damaged with no chance of recovery, her parents insisted Terry live, while her husband claimed she had previously asked to be allowed to die if this should happen to her. Her husband eventually won the battle.  

For thousands of years no one survived with a dead brain. Suddenly we have the technology, and Do Not Resuscitate forms and Living Wills. These are being signed and filed into legal systems. How do we know if living for living’s sake is not what we want?

What a devastating decision – either to allow a loved one to die or let them live in a state we dread for ourselves. Life is sacred, however the platitude I have heard frequently is to just trust God. Tell that to families of the painfully and terminally ill. Say that to the parent of a child living as a vegetable. Try to wrap up anyone’s sorrow into such an easy blanket. It does not work. It does not work because science can keep us breathing and hearts beating long after we would have died naturally. Science says it can freeze us and maybe we can live forever!

Why does this matter to me twelve years after Terry Schivo’s death? It matters because medical and legal systems are now promoting suicide. Talk about going too far! We are talking about legal doctor prescribed death!

Our emotions can get the better of us when we hear stories about people like Terry, or those who are going to die anyway. When someone chooses the date of their death, we sympathize with their pain and perhaps wonder if we would do the same.  

Emotions rarely guide us well.

According to a survey of 15,800 physicians, 40% have biases against patients with certain health problems. At the top of the list are those with emotional problems (62%).  

Remember when we used to automatically throw persons with emotional “problems” (no doubt mental illness in most cases) into institutions and lock them away?  Instead of this society becoming more enlightened and educated, we have become so cruel as to pass “End of Life Option” laws.  Do not be fooled, these measures do not protect vulnerable people.

In California for instance, the law states that the Public Health Department must investigate the details of a patient’s death after he or she died. However, that information is not accessible to authorities. While there are safeguards against only one doctor or family member making all the decisions, there is no protection from a biased or even murderous doctor who has ultimate autonomy when prescribing an aid-in-dying drug. As long as the doctor dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s, he or she is safe from criminal liability.   

Also in California, witnesses are required to be present at the patient’s initial signing of a request to die. Neither of these witnesses have to be doctors or mental health professionals. After official steps have been taken, and after a patient has possession of the aid-in-dying drug, he or she is to sign a final attestation form stating a true desire to die. Again, after the person’s death, the form is to be given to the prescribing doctor. No witnesses are required to attend the signing. No witnesses means coerced or fraudulent signatures have a pass. 

There are more problems with the law, such as the doctor can choose whether to send the patient to a mental health care provider for assessment. Laws like this do not effectively shut the door on assisted-suicide or euthanasia. In fact, they are a step closer to what some people want – the right to decide another person’s death.

An activist group now calling themselves Compassion and Choices (simply a cover-up name for the more recognizable Hemlock Society), is arguing more types of people should qualify for legally prescribed death. Big surprise – those with long-term mental illness are among those named. (Also seniors with “terminal old age”).  

My heart breaks for the vulnerables. Yes, I am one of them and woefully aware of the power of stigma and bias. As one with a long-term mental illness, I see it all the time. In friendships, with strangers, in church, at the hospital, in the doctor’s office – even in (rare) impatience coming from therapists. The process of retraining the mind is long and arduous. People don’t like it, and expect me (and millions of others) to snap out of it instantly.  

The wanted versus unwanted message poured down our throats since Roe vs. Wade has affected us at deep levels.  Even young people are dying by suicide in rising numbers. How, in the throes of desperation and despair, is one to find reason to live when the world is screaming, “Go ahead, decrease the population. You are costing us too much. You make us uncomfortable.” It’s as if courts and doctors are standing below a high-rise and shouting, “Jump!”

It is unnatural to take human life no matter what the Hemlock Society wants to call it. Absent of life support extending a dead person’s life, snatching control from God’s hands and deciding today is the day, is to deny his timing and sovereignty. Is he big enough to help us face another hour? Is he wise enough to get us through the next ten years? Is his purpose and plan thwarted because we suffer? I’m personally counting on no.

It is still insensitive at best to tell someone thinking about suicide that he or she should just trust God. Trust yes, “just” nothing. It is hard work climbing out of despair.

If you are struggling with the value of your life, pray, seek human support, keep looking until you find someone who gets it and can help. Take one step then another then another.  If you are in danger of suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

God will see us through. One day we will rejoice in heaven. in his time.

Today’s Helpful Word

Genesis 1:27

“God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture by GESINEK on rgbstock.com

When Life is Puzzling, Simple Answers Fail. Here are 4 Substantive Ones

 Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
25493412 Overwhelming DepressionYou already know life is full of struggles. Life is also full of happy experiences like nice weather, finding a bargain, and being greeted with a smile. If distrust and pain focus our energy at times on the negative, positive moments may surprise us or go by unnoticed.
 
The opposite is also true. When life is going well, we can be shocked at pain as if it is a stranger forcing its way into our home uninvited.
 
Confusion is rampant. Why do I feel so empty now? How can I laugh minutes after my mom’s funeral? Why do bad things happen to me or my family? How can I feel good when others hurt?
 
Simple “answers” are easy to come by. We can blame anyone or anything for our discomfort. Parents, spouses, doctors, religious leaders, government officials, even God or ourselves. It is comforting to believe confusion can be resolved so readily.
 
I talk about psychology, hopefully only in the sense that it can provide insight into why we feel as we do. Behaviors, false beliefs, and feeling trapped in an inexplicable cycle can be addressed with options once an issue is recognized. However, psychology cannot answer all our confusion. Science and the study of human behavior leaves us with more questions sometimes.
 
If I am a victim, am I responsible for my behavior? If someone hurt me because they were hurt, do I have the right to feel angry? My emotional needs are great. Why can’t I find the support I need? WHY DO I STILL HURT???
 
There are answers. Some would say, “Just read the Bible.” I agree the answers are in there, but confusion cannot always make them out. We need four, somewhat more complicated answers. They definitely require us to take action.
 
1) Reach for the Higher Power.  Know God is benevolent and firm simultaneously. He loves us with passion and pours out mercy constantly. He has created us with purpose regardless how life (or death) treats us. He sent His only born-to-God Son, Jesus, to sacrifice his life for our eternal one. When we believe that, trust him as the way to God, and obey God’s instructions, we can know we have a connection to the Almighty. Our Higher Power is the Highest Power. We are never alone.
 
2) It’s important to receive wise counsel. For spiritual guidance, the source needs to understand God’s love, grace, and commands. They have to be people who believe the Bible is God’s Word. For mental health, a therapist ought not ridicule or belittle your faith in Jesus Christ. They must be knowledgable about your psychological condition and experienced with positive results. Support groups, Anonymous 12-step groups, some friends and family (if they get it) are places to discover you are not alone and can make positive changes.
 
3)Accept that life is a bouncy ball and cannot always be explained. Embrace confusion as part of the experience. If we can say, “I don’t know” and be okay with that, we will have more peace. By letting go, we cease trying to control everything and everybody. What a relief that is!
 
4) Buy into hope. At times we feel 100% certain there is no hope. The first three of this list of answers may seem a mockery of reality. However, hope is only hiding behind a curtain of pain and confusion. Eventually this blockade lifts and hope is ours to grasp again. Meanwhile, buy into the idea of hope. I have hope, many others have hope, your supports have hope, doctors and therapists have hope – why not choose to believe it exists? It’s a torturous wait sometimes hanging on to that thread. Yet desperately holding the hope of other people can get us through to the other side. 
 

Simple answers are so empty they rarely offer permanent solutions. I highly recommend substance. Believing and obeying a benevolent God, seeking wise support, accepting life on life’s terms, and reaching for hope will provide a solid floor to stand on. All four together surprise us with joy.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32:22

Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

pic from kozzi.com

People Always Leave. Loneliness and Faith

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

nj6wqm4Ever kick yourself for opening up, trusting another person only to have them leave your life? If so, you are not alone.

Eight years ago, the director of a Cleveland, Ohio city-wide ministry told me, “People come and go.  For a time they may speak into your life and then God will move them on. People always leave, and you should expect that.”

I reacted in shock and disbelief. No, friends are supposed to stay together forever. Family is forever. Those who say they care are to stick by you. It could not be true that people always leave.

Interesting that I would have that point of view considering my family of origin splintered years earlier. However, within twelve months of her warning, I had moved to Philadelphia leaving many people behind. Connections in the East did not follow me back to Ohio.

People always leave.

In support groups and conversations with those who are struggling, a common theme is loneliness. Vulnerability comes hard sometimes, especially when one is used to rejection or abandonment. Trust can take years while all the tiptoeing and testing repeatedly provide evidence whether a person is staying or going.

Acute loneliness though, can block healthy reactions to red flags. This is why sometimes people end up abused, trusting the wrong person, or failing to understand parameters in a professional relationship. It is also why some people  kill themselves.

Wise counselors ought to be aware of this. When they are not, havoc can ensue. It would be nice if all of us grasped it and treated each other with more kindness.

There is One who stays. He said, “Even if your father and mother abandon you, I never will.”* In what could seem like contradiction, he did physically leave those who walked alongside him for three years. However, on his way out he repeated the promise, “I am with you even to the end of the world.”**

Unlike people who go away, he left behind his presence in the form of a Spirit.  I am talking about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I long for Jesus to be here in body form because I want a hug or to see his eyes looking at me. Truth is, if he was limited to muscles, skin, and bones he would not be available for everyone all the time.

As painful as it is to regret trusting a human who betrays that trust or just disappears from one’s life, that agony does not compare to the peace found in Jesus’ presence.  I have not felt all of my struggles go away just because I pray. There is relief, though. By spending time with him I know I am loved by God, can believe my life still matters, and willingness to reach out again for support is renewed.

The director was right. People always leave. Even if they do not literally turn away, humans still have to leave the room, go to the store, interact with other people, go to work, and so on. We cannot be a 24-hour presence for anyone else.

On my worst days, when loneliness, major depression, and grief due to loss of relationship coincide, I can cry out to Jesus. Even if all I can pray is, “help,” I know he does. There is comfort in knowing him as my Savior and being his disciple.

You see why, don’t you? He is a promise keeper.

He never leaves.

msnkhksToday’s Helpful Word

John 16:7

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” -Jesus (‘Helper’ is the Holy Spirit).

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– Looking out to sea pic from SCOTTMLIDDELL at rgbstock.com

-praying hands pic by XYMONAU at rgbstock.com

*Psalm 27:10

**Matthew 28:20

An Open Letter About Porn to Christian Husbands, Pastors, and Husbands-To-Be

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Note TakingDear Christian Husbands, Pastors, and Husbands-to-Be:

The topic of porn use is not often the subject of sermons. That is my point.

As a twice weekly church goer all of my life, in different churches over a span of 55 years, what I have predominantly witnessed is an hypocritical united stand against behaviors in the LGBTQ community, while the use of pornography, sex outside of marriage, and serial marriage go largely unaddressed. It’s the negligent or deliberate excusing of supposedly “lesser sins” that stinks.

(NOTE: My history is with Evangelical and Reformed churches. It is impossible for me to write knowledgeably about what goes on in mainline protestant or Catholic arenas. It is important to note the wide range of church disciplines and applications of scripture across the Evangelical and Reformed realms. I can only speak from my experience and perspective.)

Fanciful Grace

Christian circles tend to embrace spiritual brothers who say they are sorry,  especially if they cry. Tough truth is, Christian men who use porn may feel remorse and put on a show of regret, and stay unrepentant at the same time. (By unrepentant I mean unchanged). The harm caused to families is patched up with a swipe of the hands and an “All better!” 

Follow-up with the confessor’s wife ranges from little to none at all. An insidious mindset prevails that a Christian wife is to be patient, forgiving, and available to her man no matter what.  When she asks for counsel, a subset of ideas fuels the care she receives. This includes, if wives love their spouse well, he will not “need” porn.

This is not vastly different from the unchurched world, and that’s a problem. Christian husbands are called by Christ to a higher standard of love, a faithful love, a sacrificial love. 

Christian men are to love their wives as Christ loves the church.* That is a lifestyle of unselfishness and setting aside the instant for the worth-waiting-for.  Meanwhile, Christian men who watch porn live in make-believe, intolerant of the realness of their wives.

Unlike fantasy where a man can be a jerk and everyone still wants him, his wife wants respect. Her heart longs for deep connection at every level. For my blogs that go into more detail on relationships, click these links:  Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse  and More on Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse.

Collateral Damage

Sadly, one Christian wife whose Christian husband chose divorce over giving up porn, said she believes there are two kinds of men in the world- those who use porn and those who admit it.  Is she wrong?

Husbands who take their role seriously do not make it difficult for wives to trust God, other people, and themselves.  Christian men are commanded to nurture, not destroy the inner being of the one God gave them. Love your wives as Christ loved the Church.

Yet still in modern times men who watch porn are excused in the church. Do you ever see the immoral brother cast out from the church until he repents? No, porn use is not considered bad enough for that. Immoral brothers include preachers, worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, church planters, missionaries, ushers, elders, and deacons. What could motivate them to say, “enough!”  

Instead, men form accountability groups, Bible studies, and write self-help books about every man’s battle. Where is the warrior who quakes at God’s Word and changes his ways completely? 

 Let’s Get Real

Husbands tell their wives they struggle against pornography.

Men, no you don’t struggle against pornography. You love it. Your struggle is against righteousness. Your mind is focused on how difficult porn is to give up, how maybe if you cry out to God in sorrow and remorse he will forgive you and continue to use you in ministry.

Your love for pornography causes you to turn from the relationships you say you want. You are willing to give up right standing with God. You are willing to hurt your wife and steal from her the ability to trust. You are willing to bring sexual immorality into the home and fail to protect your children. No, you do not struggle against pornography. You struggle against righteousness.

You will drop righteous and healthy living at a moment’s notice because your eyes saw something you want, you experience body sensations, and your mind tells you lies. You don’t live the life of courage it takes to love your wife as Jesus loves the Church. Spiritual leadership over your family is easily sacrificed on the altar of fantasy and lust. You don’t struggle against porn; you struggle against righteousness.

It seems inconceivable that you could meet your wife’s need for faithfulness. It doesn’t seem fair that you have this libido and are expected to ignore billboards, women, and TV commercials. You don’t believe you can be a man of God free of sexual immorality, so you rationalize. You beg your wife to understand, and to be patient and forgiving. “It has nothing to do with you” she is told. “I love you, pornography is a release- that’s all it is.”

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 97:10

You who love the LORD, hate evil!

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– pic from qualitystockphotos

*Ephesians 5:25

NOTE:  Wives have sins too, this article is not intended as man-bashing. Wives can use pornography also and have reason to repent. My focus is on Christian marriages and the effects on wives of porn use by husbands. If you want an article about other ramifications, I encourage you to write it.

C’mon, No One Can Actually Be Addicted to Food… Right?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

ottugq0I liked food, that’s all. It wasn’t as though other people did not enjoy food, they just did not like it as much as I did.

I liked it so much I would eat it when it was stale, dirty, frozen, or still sizzling from the pan. It was so enjoyable I stole, sneaked, and hid it. When nothing “good” was in the refrigerator I settled for condiments and sugar from the bowl.

Local delivery was my best friend, especially when no one else knew about it. Binges of pizza, wings, and chinese were not unusual. I used money intended for my family on extra groceries and trips in the middle of the night for fast food.

This was not addiction or even gluttony. I just liked food.

If a person stood between me and eating (the clerk at the store who was slow, the church member who took the last goody at the potluck, my children who wanted my attention), I grew angry. Most of them didn’t know I resented their interference. Anger unexpressed can lead to depression, and I needed food to feel better.

Questions raged. Why is my husband asleep so I have to deal with the children during “me” time? How come this church member won’t stop talking so I can get over to the casseroles? How dare anyone ask anything of me when it’s time to eat? Anger at friends, at acquaintances, at strangers, at family –  it all made sense to me. After all, I liked food more than they did. They couldn’t understand.

Everyone who did not overeat, or at least did not become fat, were that way because they had easier lives. Their upbringing had been happy- or at least not as bad as mine.  Their current families were near perfect. Maybe they were in denial! Yes, that was it. Normal eaters did not need support because they thought everything was fine.

Not me. I knew I was a victim of circumstance.  Maybe some normal eaters had other vices. If they were good Christians they would not indulge in unhealthy habits. I thanked God I was not like them.

Interventions of any kind were viewed as personal attacks and prejudice. Oh, I knew I was overweight. However, well over 300 pounds wasn’t that heavy. Food was not my problem, it was my solution.  All I needed was exercise and a good diet.

So I tried. On numerous occasions food was set aside and I lost weight. See?  I could stop anytime I wanted to. Yet each victory was followed by regaining what had been lost plus more. Eventually it was clear that reaching 400 pounds only required one more diet.

I did not address the mental obsession.

Each morning, my first thought was, “What can I eat today?” All day long my thoughts centered on plotting the next snack, the next meal. Finishing a dish was a letdown, so comforting ideas around how soon to eat again took over. If no one was watching, it was seconds and thirds immediately. Otherwise I would wait. And resent.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as food addiction… right?

Huge blocks of time and memory are missing. While some of that may be due to trauma or depression, I suspect a few stories are lost under a fog of food obsession. How can an addict notice the present when all he or she cares about is the next fix?

When loneliness hit,  resentment covered the fact I was not reaching out. People didn’t love me well enough. Their failure was  reason to eat. In response to feeling alone, I stayed home to eat. People were kept at a distance because I trusted no one, so  I ate. Food was a faithful companion.

If you know anything about drug, alcohol, or other “understood” addictions, you recognize the description. Life was about the fix, the escape. Health was a low priority.

Finally, a therapist insisted I go to treatment. Rehab. For liking food.

My first days there I ate what ever was in sight. Then a thought changed my focus. Very few people can afford this opportunity. God has provided this once in a lifetime chance. Will I take advantage of his gift or throw it away in defiance?

In the treatment center I learned life does not demand overeating. Denial fell away. For the first time I admitted to addiction.

Dieticians introduced a food plan I could live with. Life changing decisions were made to end negative cycles. Once home, for the next year emotions challenged my ability to cope because my “drug” was gone. The food plan, basically a plan of eating developed by a nutritionist, saved the day.

Oh the payoff! Abstinence (not indulging in compulsive eating) means I do not have to think about food. My mornings can be filled with praise to God and plans for the day. No cravings demand my attention because meals and appropriate snacks are already decided.

I focus on conversations and am getting to know my friends better. Instead of eyeing the food at a potluck, it is people I think about and how to bless them in some way.  I accept every interference to compulsive eating as a gift.

Abstinence, sobriety, staying clean – all depend on support from a Higher Power and others in recovery. This is why I turn to Jesus and attend 12-step meetings. History proves I am powerless to handle recovery on my own.

As surely as an alcoholic cannot have one more drink or the drug addict one more high, mental obsession will eventually return me to a hopeless state if I take one bite of a “trigger” food. No flavor is worth that. I like peace best.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 14:27   NIV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (Jesus)

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– pic by bretz on rgbstock.com

 

 

 

This is Your Brain On Drugs. Any Questions?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

oa6lkniDo you remember the televised public service announcement that showed a close-up of an egg?  The actor said, “This is your brain.” He called a frying pan “drugs.” Then as the egg broke into the pan, it bubbled and its edges curled. The actor said, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

Seeing this for the first time as a young adult who had already stopped experimenting with drugs, it seemed to send a quality message. For me, the idea of destroying brain cells was a deterrent. 

My first car had been owned by a pot-head who was slowly losing his ability to drive. The car had been adjusted for hand controls as his legs were the first to become useless. Eventually the car had to be sold, and was reverted back to original condition. 

That sealed it for me. No drugs. Ever. 

There is a great deal of rationalizing in homes, cars, empty warehouses, and in the arguments of those wishing to legalize drug use for recreational purposes.  “Marijuana is not addictive” is one myth floating about. Tell that to the kid who spent his life in a wheelchair. As with all forms of self-medication, pot can become a mental obsession.

Addiction is not only a chemically induced physical draw to the fix, it is also a mental game of repetitive cycles. “I can stop anytime I want” is followed by successful abstinence for a time, followed by an eventual return. It is not uncommon for someone to give up one addiction for another, either.

Rationalizations ran my life as overeating took over my thoughts and body. While triumphantly avoiding the loss of brain cells due to drugs, my mental obsession with food nearly took me out. Although recovery has resulted in significant weight loss, there are continued health consequences to pay.

A PSA  for food addiction could probably look like a close-up of an egg, a red-hot frying pan symbolizing deteriorating health, and a hand snatching the sizzling egg and shoving it into a mouth. Food addiction is that insane.  

A world tends to say food addiction is not real. Well, it is, folks. I and many other food addicts in recovery whom I have met, will tell you without flinching that food has had a chemically induced effect on our brains. However, without a doubt, the most self-defeating aspect of addiction is the mental obsession. 

Loss of brain cells or not, addiction of all types interferes with relationships (how can we pay attention to other people’s needs when our focus is on our obsession?), common sense (we will rationalize anything to have our fix), and our social lives (we will hang out with people who do not challenge our addiction).

Our intellect and critical thinking skills are damaged (we are only interested in information that supports our addiction). Faith wavers (we do not want to surrender to God and lose control over our own decisions). Physical health (we live in denial), and our sense of worth (we turn to the fix to feel better – which never works for long) also pay a high price for our choices. 

There is hope! Quality reasoning can return if we will accept drug use and self-medicating as the dangers and destroyers they are. Help is available. Drug, alcohol, eating disorders, and other mental health issues are addressed by caring people in treatment centers, addiction counselors’ offices, and in anonymous 12-step groups all over the world. 

God helps. I do not just mean a shadowy imagination of a potentially supreme being. I am talking about God as described in the Bible. Through his Son Jesus, we have been given the source of life and love. Our needs are met by Him despite continued struggles.

mjbzbxmFor me, knowing God in my recovery is the number one motivator for staying clean. When I fail, He is the reason I come back. As my mind screams, “life is too hard, you need your fix,” I can pray for the Highest Power to give me strength. 

This is my brain on prayer – calmer, comforted, complete – exactly what drugs and food promise and endlessly fail to deliver.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 15: 9  
“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love.  (Jesus)

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– frying eggs pic by Teslacoils on rgbstock.com

– hand and egg pic by debsch on rgbstock.com